And So It Comes (Close) to an End: Returning to School

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By Matthew Scoggin

Once the summer semester came to an end, I was very much in need of a break. The weekly grind of classes, clinics, and our other extracurricular activities had taken a toll on me. After exams ended, though, I was finally able to exhale.

After my three-week "summer vacation" to visit family and friends had ended, class moved once again to the forefront of my mind, and I had to make several lifestyle adjustments. First, after numerous days of sleeping in while on break, the 6:30 a.m. alarm was a rude awakening, so I had to re-acclimate myself to getting up early. Second, since Bakery Square was becoming busier every day, parking was no longer free of charge. Thankfully, my apartment is close to numerous bus stops, so catching a bus proved to be easy. Finally, I had to readjust to having a full schedule once again. With a packed schedule of Upper Extremity Orthotics, Upper Extremity Prosthetics, Issues in the United States Health System, Research Seminar, my clinical internship, and continuing work on my research paper, I knew I would be busy, but proper time management would make it all possible.

New Material, New Experiences

Before entering the master's program, I did not have much clinical experience with upper-limb O&P other than upper-limb anatomy. To make things easier, our teachers have done a fantastic job helping us to understand the basics of pathology and fabrication. Additionally, our upper-limb amputee models have been wonderful about sharing their experiences and gracious with their time and patience.

This semester, the program has experienced its first logistical bump in the road. The National Commission on Orthotic & Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) requires all students to complete 500 clinical hours during school. Because the new class of students will begin their clinical rotations in January, our clinical sites will overlap, and there just aren't enough O&P facilities in Pittsburgh to support the need. As a result, not everyone will be able to continue in Pittsburgh. I was given the choice to do my clinical rotation elsewhere and take the remainder of my coursework online, so I have decided to return to my home state of North Carolina and work with Tony Saia, CPO, of Bio-Tech Prosthetics and Orthotics, Winston-Salem. I put in many hours there during the summer before I started at the University of Pittsburgh and almost every time I returned home during school breaks. It will be wonderful working with people I know and am comfortable with.

Even though there is still another semester left in school, my first residency is looming, so my search for a residency site is becoming more serious. It is proving to be an interesting ride as I figure out the best way to contact different offices to express interest without being bothersome and interrupting their workflow. It is tough to find a place that meets all of my needs and desires, but I am doing my best to find a good compromise between patient variety, geographic location, and residency description. I have a few companies that I will be interviewing with and visiting in the near future, but thinking about moving to a new place and finally beginning my career—I mean my last two years of education—makes me feel both anxious and eager about the unknown.

Looking Ahead

As I approach the end of my formal educational experience, I find myself reflecting on what my life as a healthcare professional will mean to me. Focusing on what is important is vital to a rewarding professional life. I am thankful that I have found a fulfilling career in prosthetics and orthotics, but I am even more blessed that I found a vehicle to carry out my life's passion—serving others.

Matthew Scoggin is a second-year graduate student in the master of science in prosthetics and orthotics program at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He will be sharing his experiences with The O&P EDGE during his final year of graduate school.